Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Adding a search engine to our website

Inspired by an article I read on I thought it'd be a good idea to add a search facility to our holiday home website which would make it easier for visitors to find things on the site.

The isitebuild article recommends using a free search engine facility such as Atomz, Freefind or Google Custom Search Engine.

Normally I'm quite a fan of Google but I have to admit to not particularly liking some of the Google powered searches I've seen on other sites. The results returned often look just plain amateurish and have big Google logos and confusing radio buttons that toggle between searching your site and searching the main Google engine. All in all it's not as good as it could be.

Looking a bit further (searching with Google of course) I also found PicoSearch, FusionBot Free and a good article that compared the features of some of the different free remotely hosted search engines.

The problem with all of these options are that the free versions are all supported by adverts which is understandable I suppose but doesn't look so good and is not what I want to appear in the middle of our website.

So the alternative I've been playing around with is running my own search engine on my own website as my hosting provider allows me to run CGI scripts (that's how the 'contact us' booking enquiry form we have works - it's a CGI script from Matt's script archive).

Over on there's a list of different CGI/Perl search engines and the Fluffy CGI search particularly caught my eye as it highlights the relevant words you searched for in the search engine results displayed when your visitor does a search - sounds great!

Unfortunately I can't get it to work and I don't know why. I followed the configuration instructions on the Fluffy search site, uploaded the various .pl files and set execute permissions on them, created a blank directory for the search index, and ran the 'create index' script which ran OK but promptly did nothing and didn't create the index files.

And so of course with no index, no search results.

I've probably done something stupid so I emailed the authors of Fluffy Search to ask for help. I only sent the email tonight so have not heard back yet from them.

PS: I've just found the CGI Resource Index which has 2525 free CGI scripts to play with including 39 different Perl site search engine scripts so looks like I've for plenty of alternatives to try out.

Fluffy's on there but is way down near the bottom of the list as it's not been ranked by anyone. Maybe I'll start fiddling with the top-ranking entries.



  • Your website looks great Geoffrey. I've seen quite a few rental websites and yours is one of the best. Easy to navigate, good photos and lots of useful information about what to do.

    I can see why you are adding a search tool to the website given that there are so many pages. Creating a good search engine is one of the hardest things to do though, so once you get the Perl script working, have a good look at the search engine results to see how happy you are with them.

    It's a shame the Google search result page does not look good, but the relevance of results is normally excellent. Do you know that you can create a custom search engine with google? I have not done it myself but I think it gives you more control over the design.

    Good luck with getting the Perl script working. The author should be able to help you fix it. Perl is what we used to build Rent 8 - our service that lets people create a holiday home website online. I'd recommend it to you but you'd want features that we have not added yet e.g. unlimited pages and site search.

    By Blogger Jake, at January 28, 2008  

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